20150726

Unfossilized

I'm looking out of the back of the Hondominium. The sun nears the horizon and the beach roars. I smell a murky, moist air. Ionized. I am listening to Rodreguez and considering the recent affects of time. The ocean has a way of inviting big thinking, at least it does for me. I find myself mulling over a variety of road realizations, each one anchored in the concept of time.

I get cranky on the road. Nothing stays the same for very long. I get from adapting to newness. Moments alone are rare. Sometimes I crave the indoors and I don't mean the inside of the 35 sq foot vehicle I live in. There have been many fits, always about small things. I can't get a bath when I want one. Sometimes there is no escaping a mosquito infested creek. Often want to turn off everything, but living outdoors prevents this kind of pause. Livingness's activity is everywhere and always. Since the start of this summer trip I have become more resilient. The irritations I experience are practically a reason to get out of my home. Living indoors, after all, is learned. Modern. Movement, like water bubbling downstream aerated by passing over a bed of rocks, purifies.

Wishing to be helpful Mikey tries to fix problems that come up. I ranted my way up a steep mile-high climb on a rocky, narrow, unpaved national forest road. It featured an epic 2,000 ft drop cliff on one side, "why are all the national forest roads so f#(@) dangerous!" I harrumphed. Half an hour later, still throwing a fit we settled into a spot on the mountain and I passed out for the night. In the morning I appreciated the moss covered gigantic trees so thick that barely a few speckles of sun showed through. I loved the stone lined stream that had provided white noise throughout the night as well as a morning bath. A few days later and hundreds of miles later, at sea level I realized Mikey had navigated us to a more civilized and predictable terrain hoping to quell my rage. We were at the beach.  I told him that no matter how well intending he must not do this. I need for time to work on my rough edges, including the irritation about hazardous national forest roads. It takes time to be broken. We agreed to return to national forests for free overnight parking spots.


Many people we've met have asked how long we're traveling. We reply, "about seven months." The expression on people's faces, many in the process of using up the two weeks of vacation time that they have for the entire year, remind me that time is more valuable than money. People who have money spend it on time.

Since we left New Mexico in April we have clocked approximately 200 to 300 miles of trail and so I know that being in nature changes me. Last week I realized that I'd forgotten to bring something to these hikes and runs, contemplation. Its easy to run past a tree failing to notice its features, an expansive root system, unusual trunk, and pungent piney scent. Taken in, these experiences are transformative. A Sufi initiate in an order that is nature-based I have had the privilege being spoken to by nature. Contact with nature turns listening to hearing; transforms sight and scent into touch; and inspiration to metaphor and even communion. Fortunately with half of the trip ahead of me, I remember. I have time to bring contemplation to the trail. To do so I will have to shift the way I've been treating time because contemplation is the domain of the soul and the soul is slow.

The cliche's about time are abundant, "time heal's all wounds," "this time like all times is a good time if we but know what to do with it," and there's my favorite quote by Willem Dafoe that I captured in my book. He said it as the character of an angel in the film Faraway, So Close! "time is short. that’s the first thing. . . . time is a servant if you are its master. time is your god if you are its dog. We are the creators of time, the victims of time, and the killers of time. time is timeless. that’s the second thing. you are the clock." I think of these quotes when Mikey changes the game in an effort to try to fix everything that I complain about. I remind him that I'm not traveling for trivial fun. I am living in Hondo and nature to learn and discover more about who I am and what this world is.

The Bozeman Air BnB rental provided a place to meet up with my childhood friends and hang out for three days. I arrived there frazzled from the road. I craved a roof over my head and protection from the elements. I wanted consistency too. Predictable sameness sounded perfect. I was shocked when the three short days of living in a house revivified me. Back on the road I felt more durable than I have felt since the start of the trip.  When my friends left for the airport and I locked the rental property door behind me I knew that I had felt cleaner from a bath in a cold, crisp river than I did from a chlorinated shower and I preferred the sharp, breezy night air to the stuffiness of the little room with a window fan. I had changed.

It feels good to decalcify even if it hurts to feel the fossilization of civilized life break apart. Something more flexible, tolerant, welcoming and fresh is left behind.

20150725

Accessories for Autonauts

Truly this is the yard sale score of my summer, a spill proof urinal with attachment for women that specifies usability in automobiles. If your wondering why we would need this just imagine that it's early morning and you have stealthed a spot to sleep in that's suburban. You are trying to blend in. You don't want to be recognized as living in your vehicle. You have to pee. Uh oh!
This baby was free, and new in bag. The mom having the sale couldn't bear her kids inquiry when I held it up and asked, "how much?" "Free," she said while waving an arm as a gesture to make me go away.  Resale price on Ebay? A smoothe $40. Value to an autonaut? Priceless.

20150724

Welcome to Boz Angeles

Leaving Bozeman, Montana my step is slow, smile warm and lazy, needs few. Early on in our stay a theme was revealed, people. It started with a stint at a friend's home in Willow Creek. Eight T or C folks met up there and tubed a creek that runs through my friend’s property. We cooked, ate, drank beer, chatted, slept and lazied about. This is where I learned that if you hear Montana folk talking about what a bad mosquito year it is you might consider leaving rivers and lakes for high and dry terrain, at least until the weather shifts. Though we left with bodies bumpy and full of itch our hearts were full. Bookending the trip our final days in Bozeman were spent in reunion with three of my friends from 4th and 6th grades who flew in from NY and LA to meet us. If I had a tail I'd wag it. 

Traveling from Willow Creek to Bozeman we passed through tiny towns, and sprawling farms and ranches that blanketed a hilly terrain until we reached the outer ring of Bozeman, which like so many places we've visited in the US consists of a band of big box stores like Ross, Target, Michaels, Wallmart, and REI. For them streets widen, traffic thickens, cement dominates, and shade turns scarce making summer days hotter than they ought to be. As we neared old Bozeman tree lined roads softened the day. The town’s history revealed itself through memories as well as projections of its future. Iconic cowboy souvenirs are sold in the stores that line Main St., and at the Gallastin County Fair rodeo and roller derby competed for the same time slot. The future could be seen in the newly remodeled homes and businesses - food coops, tapas bars and breweries welcomed tourists and locals alike. My favorite Bozeman remodel is an old brick school turned into a restaurant, theater, several art galleries, and stores featuring handmade goods. As one would expect of structures built around the 40s, Bozeman's buildings are due for an overhaul. I found the remodels tasteful and in keeping with the style of the town, the details paying homage to the past with rusted parts from farms, ranches, and plenty of folk art. I had heard some harrumphing about a local practice of demo’ing Victorians only to rebuild a brand new version of it, the mimic identical to the original. But to my eyes, fresh paint felt both fresh and necessary.


Signs of growth are everywhere in Bozeman. Locals tell that it has been this way for more than ten years. Growth is slow and continuous. Most of the folks that I asked said that they like it. I did not feel a sweeping gentrification like the kind I saw in New York. Having just been to Bend, Oregon I got a view of the area's kind of growth and gentrification. I found Bozeman to be anything but fancy. I was shocked when I got to Missoula where I first heard the term Boz Angeles. I can only guess the folks who compare Bozeman to LA have never been to LA.

The college in Bozeman is a reminder of the area’s roots with majors in agriculture and mechanical engineering (liberal arts are studied in Missoula). If you were to miss these clues, denim Wranglers tell a more more mall oriented shopper that Bozeman still likes to play in the dirt, the theme of this year’s fair. Still we found that those who want authentic Montana experiences drive to places like the Pony Bar (apparently George Harrison called it the best bar in America) and Harrison’s Town Haul, a diner that serves owner raised, grass fed beef. In spite of Bozeman’s ranching roots, residents boast that they are neither liberal nor conservative, and say things like, “we do our own thing.”

As I travel this summer I am continuously surprised at how noticeably different people of various regions feel to me. The kids in Bend’s swimming pool locker room were forward, sharp, and critical of those not present while the same age kids in the Bozeman HS pool locker room asked one another about specific details in their lives saying things like, “how’s your mom feeling after that long trip?” They were noticeably soft and gentle and they were kind to one another. The habit I have of maintaining direct eye contact when speaking to someone felt too aggressive for Bozeman. As if meeting a member of an uncontacted tribe I switched to looking at my shoes when talking to a stranger, then gradually I let my gaze lift. This modification led me to believe that I was received better. Conversations in Bozeman were noticeably rich, sincere, and easier than they’d been in any town I’d visited this summer with the exception of Truckee, CA where people socialized easily and everywhere. I also found people to be grounded, clear, direct and utterly sane, attributes that since traveling I can no longer take for granted. I admit that when I arrived in Bozeman, it was at first shocking to be around people smoking cigarettes. Having completed a three-week stint in athletic Bend, OR and then a weekend in vane Sun Valley, I was also no longer accustomed to the variety of human sizes and especially obesity. After the shock wore off, I appreciated being amongst a truer reflection of humanity. Bozeman likes outdoor play, trails were well populated all days of the week. Here exercise in balance with the rest of life.

In spite of Main St. being a retail strip for tourists Bozeman did not feel like an imitation of itself. I left New York City around the time that Whole Foods blocked off an entire side of Union Square, right around the time that 42nd St and Times Square transformed into outdoor malls for big box stores, and the east village turned into fraternity row, and so I am sensitive to this trend. But I know well that capitalism, in order to survive, must commodify. Authenticity, experience, memories, manners, and nuisance once authentic, the kind that create personality, become echos as these expressions are sold off in the form of souvenirs. When I drove across the country in 2001 I saw the essence and soul of the places that I visited being strategically replaced by homogenous strip malls and big box stores prepared to sell tokens of what once was. This is why today Santa Fe will try and sell you Native American looking rugs, ponchos and chipotle even if no Native American had anything to do with the making of these things. I often wonder if this process of digesting authenticity and turning meaning into commodity, is the cause of the recent trend toward irony. 

Bozeman’s resources are hardly superficial. They include the Gallatin National Forest and a beautiful public library that offers a wonder-world both inside and out. It backs up to shady, grass covered, rolling hills and hiking trails that can take you miles. More trails for hiking are in the nearby forest. Our favorite is called the Hyalite. It features more than 8 waterfalls and a stunning alpine lake on top. Something to note, you might want to carry bear mace. A forest ranger confirmed that Grizzlies are resident in the mountains around Bozeman. After passing by entire camps of young kids and senior citizens I realized that I should get over my worries about meeting one.

With more than a handful of breweries Bozeman is keeping up with the trending culture found in mountain towns. While only two of its many coffee shops offered pour overs, and only one carried gear for chemex, you could buy yourself a growler and get it filled with good craft beer for a mere $5 if you caught Bozone Brewery on the right night. We scored a Belgian Wit that was darn good! Throughout Montana we scored $7 growler refills and we even got a $10 sour that we scored at Draught Works in Missoula. 

We looked for evidence of a tech community but found nothing to indicate the presence of cutting edge tech trends that one might find in larger cities. The exception perhaps was a killer computer library located near campus. Laptops were remarkably and perhaps delightfully missing from cafes. Missoula’s new Black Coffee Roaster boasted a “no wi-fi" and this got us wondering if there might be a trend toward screen free environments. With the absence of things like maker spaces, and missing tech art culture, closer inspection revealed to us that Bozeman hosts no tech industry to lure technical people to the area. We did find plenty of folk artists, architects, and makers of things such as and metal smiths, and lots of niche small businesses offering services like media and printing located throughout town. Judging by the unrushed and lengthily conversations regularly kicked off while waiting on line weekday afternoons, Bozeman seems to have a relaxed work ethic that has does not fray the nerves of it’s residents.

If you love live music, mountain towns like Bozeman are meccas for summer festivals. With each mountain town hosting the same talent as every other, I realize that Mikey and I could have spent our summer working as roadies on the circuit. To my taste these regions could use a bit more musical variety but at least world music made the roster.  I hope that Portland will supply me with some needed jazz.

While Mikey and I were open to hanging around MT a bit longer, neither Missoula nor the old mining city of Butte (now a superfund site) convinced us to stick around. In keeping with our “follow the weather” strategy, and Bozeman hitting 90 degrees this week, we headed to the beach to visit the old port, Astoria, Or. 

20150716

Seeking Out Wisdom & Meaning In The Maker Culture - Make Magazine

By the end of 2013, and having toured for seven months to promote my book, The Good Life Lab, the message in it became even more fine-tuned. Reviewing my ideas again and again by speaking about them, and engaging in conversations with people who attended the talks revealed more about the subject that has become the focus of my life's work - the commodification of culture. One of the realizations that I had was that contemplation is the only assurance that we may understand the consequences of what we do and make choices that preserve life. We can't go on without it.


I've been a part of the maker movement for many years, beginning some time before I created the textile repurposing model called Swap-O-Rama-Rama, and when I was making things to bring to Burning Man. The swap eventually became a part of the Maker Faire and grew to be worldwide. I became a maker full time when Mikey and I moved to New Mexico to discover a post-consumer life.

Over the years I have thought a great deal about the maker movement's future and impact on the world. Today Make printed an article that I've thought about writing for a long time. I hope you'll take a moment to read it.

The article also introduces a new project that I contributed to this year, and that you'll be hearing more about in the coming weeks. It began last year when a organization called The Seven Pillars invited me to participate in the making of a toolkit for discovering the wisdom needed to address the social and ecological needs of our day. I enthusiastically said, "yes!" The result is a multimedia e-book titled The Seven Pillars: Journey Toward Wisdom. On August 3rd it will be available through iTunes and Amazon's Kindle. You can pre-order it today on Amazon or iTunes 

Meanwhile... check out the Make article. 

(Top pic: 2003 at Mikey's Houston St. apartment just after we met. I am learning to solder and helping him make 30 pair of remote controlled vibrating underwear for Burning Man.
2nd pic: screen grab from The Seven Pillars: Journey Toward Wisdom)

LINK: Make Article 

20150714

T or C Roundup in Willow Creek, MT

This past week we enjoyed a social round up with good friends from Truth or Consequences who are also living in their vehicles this summer. Eight Truth or Consequences folks in all - Amy, Jim, Jeannie, Kyle, Larry, Donna, Mikey and myself spent a few sweet days together in Willow Creek. Some of the gang hit the Folk Fest in Butte to connect with another T or C transplant, Susan, who is now the environmental columnist at the Montana Standard. 

This lovely stop and deeper intimacy got me thinking about how lonely the road can be. Sure we meet people while traveling but interactions are often short. Road encounters have a unspoken sentiment which is that you'll probably never meet again. This presents a kind of why bother attitude regarding getting to know one another. Living in T or C, a tourist town, I admit that I don't go deep with someone unless they say they've purchased a house. Thinking back to our start in T or C, it was the friendliness of the people that are the reason Mikey and I moved there. One local, now a dear friend, called us after we had left and were back in NY. I realized T or C was offering us community. Community remains a T or C charm. 

I had imagined the road to include more social interaction than it has. I also understand that people are caught up in work (most are not freelancing from their car/home), or have so little weekend time that the little time they have is crammed. Many folks our age are chasing toddlers in the grass. Campsites seem be stocked not only with food and supplies, people bring their own relationships too. Site boundaries are felt. I don't think that I am imagining it when I recall that people were friendlier in the 70s and 80s. Perhaps they had more time? There was certainly less marketing back then, less dividing of people into lifestyles. Perhaps the world felt safer too, and so people were less guarded. Today however, many short relationships do continue on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like but something remains missing.

Before setting out I had imagined connecting to groups camping out by trailheads. I pictured lit fire pits, guitars being strummed, food shared, bottles clanked. I packed a harmonica! Conversations, however genuine, stimulating, and sweet have been short with the exception of Atheist Bob, a chatty fellow who we hiked a trail called Hyalite with. Oh and there was a snowboarder that goes by Tofu1 back in Truckee who I expect would have become a friend should we have had more time. 

Next month Mikey and I have volunteered to work an aid station at a 200 mile race called Bigfoot 200. We'll be at the last station 15 miles before the finish line. Perhaps we'll find a bit of community spirit during the three days we will spend there. Meanwhile, we're happy to have had short but sweet reunion with our friends from home. 

20150709

A Summer Bender


Bend, OR is fun. It was easy to spend three weeks in the town that respects ones choice to live in a vehicle. BTW Mikey and I nicknamed the lifestyle of car dwelling, autonauting. It is like being an astronaut only without space, the spaceship is a car, and there is gravity. Inhabitants of cars and spaceships contort to preform acrobatic movements in tiny spaces. Many Benders (folks who live in Bend, OR) have clocked time in a vehicle in order to spend time in nature. Roof racks overloaded with summer toys parade about town. We had no trouble finding lovely spots to park, short term and long, overnight, and for the day, free of fees, and abundant with beauty. Folks regularly complimented Hondo’s (our Honda’s name) interior modifications before sharing their secrets for epic natural adventures. We heard stories of kayaking in white water and stunts preformed in powder on the slopes.

Summer is an excellent time to visit Bend, though folks boast that winter is just as good. During our stay restaurants were full, parks playful, trails congested. On trail I experienced a harrumphing that I noticed in town and out, on road and off. There were spats between bikers and hikers, dog owners and not. Road rage came and went depending on nearness to the weekend. I wondered if the phenomenon was seasonal (population swell due to tourism) or if folks harrumph in Bend year round. One thing’s for sure, at a population of 80,000, Bend is close to full.

Bend provides the ease that follows good city planning. We enjoyed winding our way around town on artfully decorated traffic circles, an alternative to traffic lights circles make a difference to flow with soft curves that always move. I got to wonder about the hard right angles that traffic lights create, and the way that in spite of traffic cars idle beneath them adding to pollution, noise, and frustration. Traffic circles are hardly the only wise choice the community made collectively. Bend’s newspaper shares stories of group decision-making that produced parks, pools, trails and soon a giant ice-skating rink. With most of the town’s growth occurring in the past 20 years, it can be felt that Benders are the beneficiaries of what has been learned about modern city design.

Bend has a “we’ness.” Sometimes it can be felt in physical space like in locker rooms where there is no hesitancy to bump one another, even in the buff. In the pool folks are in the habit of sharing lap lanes with as many as six people. On one occasion a guy explained that one should not split the lane (right/left), “you don’t want to get a ticket,” he said with a smear. Even campsites seem to be communal. People enter them in spite previous occupants, and say things like, “you don’t mind do you?” No one suffers of anomie, though the flip side of Bend’s togetherness might be the blandness that comes with conformity. Bend has a limp art scene and no interest in self-expression through fashion. While in town I heard several mediocre bands perform and when I asked a guy who said that he played jazz piano where to find jazz he said, “Portland,” and rolled his eyes. Residents adhere to a local image that is unanimously celebrated with Bend branded, self-celebratory merchandise like stickers, mugs, shirts, growlers, and shrubs that have been sculpted to read BEND. Stickers pour from retail locations and the several start-ups that boast their Bend roots including Hum Kombucha, Picky Bars (athletic bar snack food), and the ever-growing Dechutes Brewery soon to open in Asheville, NC. Benders are economically upbeat. I tried to imagine how New York Times fashion writer Bill Cunningham might see the place. Would he point out the smart, utilitarian clothing specifically engineered for athleticism with fabrics that wick and dry fast, with seams relocated to prevent chaffing? Folks in Bend have an affinity for corporate brands and they love athletic brands like Patagonia, and sport corporate logos happily on body and belongings. I determined that the lack of art and textile experimentation might be the result of the place having little grit. Life in Bend is ideal. There’s nothing to go up against except the fact that there’s nothing to go up against. When a Holy Scrap reader who knew Bend well called it precious, he did not mean it as a compliment.

I wondered if church life played a part in Bends conformity. They do provide behavior modification for congregations. Those who opt out risk standing out, and in a place like Bend that could be downright scary. At brunch one day I noticed a twenty something year old mother sporting a huge tattoo of clasped hands in prayer on her upper arm. Hers was hardly the only Christian affiliated, religious tattoo I saw in Bend. Some of the town-wide blending is structured code. Earth tones are the city’s color code and assure that buildings, commercial and residential, blend. Santa Fe did this with f-adobe (fake adobe), and Leavenworth put their town on the map with a Bavarian village theme that they execute well. Bend’s monochromatic code is relaxing to the eye but I’m not sure that the owner of the new Mexican restaurant in town appreciated it when he was tagged on his use of the bright yellow and aqua ubiquitous in Mexico. He was asked to repaint to an earth tone.


Speaking of homogenous, Bend is ethnically white, with a large ranching base. When I asked folks around town about race, one guy speculated that when the campus housing is expanded (a plan in the works), than Bend might get a greater variety of ethnicities. He hoped so. I also ran into a guy – he pulled into my campsite with Oregon plates to offload a kayak and hop into the river with it and his dog Nigger. Yes, Nigger. He then yelled the dog’s name loudly and often while my jaw fell open long enough to catch mosquitos. WTF? I was not in Bend long enough to learn the depths of it’s racial attitudes, but one thing’s for sure, today Bend is white and contains at least one total ass hole.
No review of Bend is complete without mention of athleticism and dogs. On weekends the town swells with folks who are carrying a few extra pounds and wander downtown in search of carbohydrates. They call them tourists. At the Juniper Pool where Mikey and I swam laps and used the showers, we noted the stadium seats that line the sides of the Olympic sized pool. Competition could be Bend’s middle name. Lounge chairs are reserved for the baby pool teeming with toddlers and young parents, mostly moms. The water aerobic instructor barked to the class, “at ease,” to indicate a break in movements. There is no forgiveness if one should swim slowly in the lane marked “medium,” or medium speed in the lane marked “fast.” These terms seem relative but Benders have a sixth sense that knows the speed at which they move through water. My only issue with Bend’s athletic enthusiasm was how many seem to perform their sport as though it were a job and this left me wondering about what drives them. Dogs, yes dogs… they love em. On hearing this I became excited. I have a dog, and thought, “won’t this be great?” After two weeks I was depleted from dealing with pack of dogs that roamed my campsite, kicked up dirt, shit, pissed, and then left to join their master at the trailhead.

Bend is a city of amenities. The community - median income $27,000 as per 2010 census data - share decorated parks, pruned gardens, lush medians, and a well kept downtown with clean streets, sculptures, and water features. Mighty rivers flow and host giddy white water rafters. They’re lined with salmon locks. Water and air are pristine, salmon delicious. The Cascade Lakes are a treasure, divine, a stairway to heaven with meadows of fragrant flowers, cold streams that are fed by glaciers and air so clean you might call it delicious. High desert climate provides a clean environment that’s not buggy. Residents enjoy 200+ days of sunshine. Sigh….

More than trail running, biking, hiking, climbing and white water rafting, people in Bend are raising children and they do so with all the middle class delights that America has to offer. Wondering about superficiality, I searched a list of Bend’s non-profit’s to disclose their communal concerns: animal aid - neutering and rescue, environmental, power and energy, and orgs related to child development revealed interests in the things that affect them directly. I looked for yoga too and found Americanized yoga. The one Indian based form offered in Bend is Iyengar, which is also the most athletic of Indian yogas - no surprise. I could find no kirtan or Shivananda, Integral, or Anusara. A poster advertising a yoga one-day workshop replaced the meditation portion standard at these kinds of things with “faith reflection.” One Buddhist group stood out amongst the many churches, and I found a single temple. The nearest Sufis were in Portland.

Young families set the tone for the lifestyle in Bend. Fresh generations of fit parents encourage physical risk taking for the dare devils they're raising who are coming up next. The activities kids engage in are the very same that my parent’s generation scolded against. I can hear them now, “You could loose an eye! My parent’s generation also can’t get their head around why anyone would live in a vehicle. I mailed my dad a copy of regional magazine (Idaho, Wisconson, Montana) featuring a four-page spread on van-dwelling that included glossy advertisements for the Mercedes four wheel van stocked with a sleek chrome kitchen and enough technology to run a mobile news center, trying to prove that I’m not crazy, I’m trendy. My parent’s generation was all about “security,” something not as easily obtained in my day. Bend’s vibrant, young generation of parents stand a real chance of reclaiming the activity of vagabonding for the generation’s ahead bringing the right of passage sill observed in European countries back to the states. At the very least Bender’s kids are adept at being in nature, and one can hope that this comes with a good dose of respect for the livingness of this world.

I share the feelings expressed by a Holy Scrap reader who said of Bend, it’s too precious for me. The consumerism of Bend reminded me that I have never been interested in a superficial life. I left Long Island years ago to escape this very thing. I’d like Bend more if it had some grit and if it’s population were interested in something besides athleticism and beer, something bigger than their immediate world. I wonder if the folks who live in Bend are asking questions about their lifestyle, like what makes it possible, an inquiry that leads to conundrums about human rights, destruction of natural resources, and sticky issues related to social justice.

Signs of classism can be felt in Bend. One day while I held open a door so that a guy delivering Kombucha to a restaurant and sporting a loaded cart could get inside without struggle. While I stood door in hand a customer said to me, “I’m guessing that by now he’s figured out how to do that.” I think that the comment was meant to dismiss me from my post and explain why he didn't open the door - subtle but telling. While sipping beer at a brewery a woman complained to me about her son-in-law to me, “he doesn't like corporations or progress,” she said, “But you should see him take a handout.” She then harrumphed about the kids living at a retreat center somewhere near the east coast. When a man said to Sesame (my dog) “Maybe he doesn't like you,” after his dog ran off and left her longing, I considered the nonchalance with which separation is expressed.

Bend does have something to be ashamed of. Level, a magazine that defines itself as unapologetically authentic. Translation = thoughtless, disrespectful, and mean. If this publication is a reflection of the personal attitudes of the people of Bend it is a reason to cut Bend from your plans short term or long. The pub reads like the diary of a gang of spoiled-rotten 4th graders. It reeks of trust fund. In an article titled, “What We Hate About Servers,” Level prints the results of an online survey in which they asked their readers what bugs them about servers. They say that they thought these replies were funny. From a numbered list: “#2 “When They Introduce Themselves. I really just don’t give a shit what your name is, just bring me my food. Do you really think I'm going to tip you more just because I know your name is Jessica? Nope, Jessica. I’m not. #3 When They Touch You. I swear to god I seriously cringe every time a waiter touches me. #7 Ask if you need any change. I do now.” #8 Over share about their personal life. Don’t care, and it’s uncomfortable. Please stop.” It matters little that this list was followed by one titled, What our servers hate about us. Why print an article about hate? A few pages later in an article titled, The Top 10 Rules to Marriage, editor Kristy along with writer Tina Sinsara suggest, “have sex weather you want to or not,” followed by the advice, “stop being so dramatic about marital rape.” When I came to the article titled “Why I don’t Respect Women,” I almost went to their office to ask if this publication was some kind of prank. It begins, “I don’t respect women. Why should I? Most of them don’t respect themselves.” Followed by the disclaimer, “I'm referring to the kind of women I meet in the pubs and clubs these days. I have a wicked respect for my mom. Unfortunately women like my mom don’t exist anymore.” Please Bend. Kill this publication before it kills you.

Bend is a lovely place to visit in the way that the city in the sci-fi film Elysium might be, you know the city contained in a band floating just above the earth containing all the wealthy people who hold the cure to all disease and don’t share it with those below. Life in Bend is ideal with a cost that is not talked about. Bend reminds me that just because there is something to do (there’s always a lot to do in Bend) and a lot of people do it, it does not mean that it's a great thing to do. Case in point, while in Bend I saw people paddle boarding in rough, white water, and roller skiing (rollerblades extended to ski length, add poles, preform on concrete). Perhaps the problem is that one can live in Bend and ignore the world’s problems in spite of the fact that so may of those problems are the result of the lifestyle being lived by middle class Americans. Locals tell a story of Bend’s start, Californian’s moving in with money pre housing crash of 08’. A service industry followed and is still plenty with low-level jobs, add the smattering of ranchers who’ve been there for generations and who’ve come from nearby. Today one can feel the ends of the spectrum. People who’ve been in Bend for a decade or more complain about the growing population of wealthy folks who cause the feeling of have-not to those who provide the services. “They are buying up the properties than line the river’s edge,” someone said to me with disappointment. This is the way of capital no matter where you stand. Newly drawn lines that prevent nearness to nature are replacing bit-by-bit the ease Mikey and I felt that enabled us to live riverside inside of our vehicle during our stay.

The lingering thought on my way out of town was that today a good quality of life is possible for all the people of earth. When privileged people decide to make this vision a priority it may become reality. The problem with places that exist in a vacuum is that the people who live in them have no reason to care about the rest of the world; the grief of which does not reach them. This grief may have to reach them in order for things to change. As my friend Tony likes to say, “We reach Satori all or never.” Bender’s can’t go it alone, not forever.

The folks of Bend deserve credit for making key decisions that show priorities different from other consumerist places. They put nature above all else. They stay connected to it. Perhaps this connection is one of the reasons that the people of Bend are calm, friendly, and polite. They feel sane. For Bend to mature and really become something to brag about, they may have to be willing to add grit to their lives, and I don’t mean the kind that gets in the tread of your shoes and bike tires. Ironically, as I drove out of Bend to head to Sun Valley, Idaho the last thing to catch my eye was a retail-clothing store in a mall called, VANILLA Urban Threads.


20150630

Haircuts on the Fly - Juniper Pool Provides

I cut my own hair and Mikey's too. Our last cut took place beside Eel River in California. Today I cut both of us in the family changing room at Juniper Pool in Bend. These rooms are perfect for such a thing. A private room and locking door containing sinks, a shower, and power which I needed for Mikey's electric trimmer that I use to buzz the sides. I cut us both on under 20 minutes!!

20150628

River Adds Flow to Yoga

Yoga always makes more sense when practiced in nature. Here in Bend the cold, moving water of the Dechutes River causes an affect like air conditioning when the breeze blows over it.

The movement of water itself is cleansing. The Sufis call upon water's qualities with the wazifa, wahabo. When pronounce accurately the word sounds like water, think bubbling brook. Sufis also repeat it as a mantra for a variety of occasions such as to prepare for public speaking, consider the cleansing of the voice the pronunciation causes which is not unlike the odd sounding practices a vocal teacher might assign a student. Spiritual practice is always made richer when we do it with multiple senses, I've heard this dancing called praying with one's body.

While in Bend I've enjoyed the Duchutes river's presence. I've run along it, slept aside it, and it has been a part of my internal practice. Oh, I picked up the yoga matt at a yard sale. It was in the free box. : )




Ten Weeks and Still Tidy

In our so far ten weeks living in Hondo we met many vehicle dwellers and this helped us to notice that as in regular life, there are types, namely clean and dirty.  Some vehicles reflect serious OCD with built in drawers and custom made cabinetry. Just the other day we met a couple that we figured had been living in their vehicle for months. They were covered in a kind of campground grime that's common and comes from a regular dusting from cars driving by. It seeped into their clothes, vehicle and the pores of their skin. Their vehicle interior revealed a mess, crap everywhere and no systems for organizing. We asked the couple, "how long?" They replied that it had been two weeks. Hondo was parked just a few feet away, shiny and spotless. "How long," they asked. We replied, "almost three months." The moment hung.

I don't mind spending as much as 1/2 hr a day cleaning the interior of Hondo. It keeps me sane. I air out the fabrics, brush the floors, and wipe the surfaces, and clean Sesame's nose smears off the windows. It also helps that we shut the windows when we're in dusty places with car traffic.  Many leave their cars wide open failing to realize that each passer by can leave you a pound heavier just from road dust!

In these ten weeks we have amassed a variety of systems for staying clean. We have white cotton square rags that we keep around for a variety of uses: one is kitchen only, each of us has a body rag, and we have a car rag (for the interior). I also stock disinfectants in the form of essential oils: eucalyptus and tea tree are my favorites. Morning and night we boil water and use the personal rag to wash with hot water. Nothing feels better. When your hanging out in nature dirty feet turn into what we call troll foot. Nighttime foot baths are divine and keep our bed clean.

20150625

52 Taps @ The Shell Station - Yeah We're Still in Bend

Not only do the employees at the Bend Shell gas station wear cute white outfits reminiscent of a 1950s drive through burger joint, inside the place one can fill a growler with any of 52 varieties of beer, oh wait kumbucha too.

20150622

Good Eats



Eating well can be challenging when traveling and living out of a car. We've been in Bend, OR for about two weeks. There are no shortage of places to eat here and they're all pretty good. We've found the food truck and faster food joints to be as good as the higher end restaurants. I don't mean corporate chain fast food, I mean local mom-n-pop joints where one can get a taco of odd varieties. Many promise hormone free, grass fed beef while keeping it under ten bucks. That said, if you don't like tacos you may have to hunt for something else to eat! Our fav's include Korean shredded pork with kimchi.

Its hard to find the inspiration to cook when eating out is comparable in price. Still when we want to fill up on veggies nothing beats a stir fry made by a fast moving river. Here are pics of one that I make often, loads of veggies, a protein (in this case tempe) and a sauce I made from garlic, honey, molasses, red pepper, vinegar and tamari. We cook this on a simple 2 burner gas camping stove. We also travel with our juicer. Every couple of days we're sure to make a juice to assure that we get enough micro nutrients. Of course not all cities offer an abundance of healthy options so at times the juicer carries us through food deserts.

20150621

Back To Beer - Fermentation Celebration With Mall Chaser


I wear a seat belt when driving in Bend, OR. Did I mention the 18 breweries they have? It might be more than that. People here drink all day. Not a lot, they enjoy a beer with lunch, a beer with dinner, a mid day cool off, a late day wind down, a celebration. I have not encountered a inebriated person since arriving.

Bend makes it easy to experience all the beer in town with an annual Fermentation Celebration, a walking event at a mall next to the river. In between corporate mega brand stores, breweries in pop tents serve 4oz tasters to ticket holders while 20 + bands perform.

I think that some of the breweries fibbed about their brew's IBUs. Mikey and I sampled several below 25 - our limit for hops, that had a big hoppy after taste. Hum. Our favs were a nitro porter that was ok not fantastic, and a saison. Most breweries seem to bring their cheapest beer, not their best. It was a fun night still and we meandered and sampled.  I was distracted and annoyed by the mall environment with giant advertisements that seemed to be everywhere, a reminder of the consumerism that plagues this country and certainly did not skip over Bend, but I'll save these reflections for another post. Having made a intentional jaunt away from mall life (the past ten years spent living in NM), I was shocked to see that the stinky, toxic Bath and Body company is still in business. Haven't we learned anything? I forget again, that just because I have changed it does not mean the world ahs changed. Still I find myself surprised. Mikey had a allergic reaction from just walking by the place, doors held open to share the noxious stink with passer's by. The beer and mall pairing was not entirely out of character for Bend, a culture that loves consumer goods, plastic, synthetic, wearable, ridable, and yes - uh - smellable!

Thought there are nearly twenty breweries in Bend it seems that only a couple count. If your reviewing them based on artistry, authenticity of process, and taste, Deschutes Brewery is the winner hands down and no one in Bend will argue with you about it. We've heard that people who own and work in the breweries in town started at Deschutes. I will say this, all of the beer in Bend is better without the heavy dose of materialism, maybe they can ditch the mall environment next year.

Revised Reasons to Run




When I first stared running I was keeping up with Mikey. Imagining myself plump and comparatively out of shape, I didn't want to be left behind. Then I ran for time alone in the desert. It felt nourishing after having finished a tiring seven month long book tour. As my body adapted to the intensity of distance running, I ran because I realized that I had to move through the pain that running brought up in order to get to the other side of it, in order to really change who I was and was becoming. Backing off was not an option. Now I run in order to see the beautiful places that I can get to because I run. Here are a few photos of run's we've done in the last two weeks.

First Two - Eagle Creek Trail near Cascade Locks just outside of Hood River, OR (14 miles to huge waterfal RT out n back)

Next Two - Dechutes River Trail, Bend, OR (from where we're starting 22 mi RT out n back)

Last - Lake Paulina, a crater lake at 6000 ft elevation. Just south of Bend, OR in La Pine


20150615

Breweries - New Mexico to Bend



Since leaving our home in NM mid April we've arranged our priorities. I should mention that we just started drinking beer last year so its new to us. Here's a list of the Breweries we've visited and what we favored there:


  • Durango, CO - Carver Brewing C. - Saison
  • Pagosa Springs, CO - Pagosa Springs, CO - Stout and Porter
  • Carson City, NV - Lake Tahoe Brewing Co. - Cucumber Blonde
  • Truckee, CA - 50/50 - Belgian style tripel
  • Reno, NV - Silverpeak - unremarkable selection
  • Auburn, CA - Auburn Ale House - OK Stout, eh.... all around
  • Boonville, CA - Anderson Valley Brewing Co. - Watermelon sour, Double, all great, knowledgable staff, great bartender, they produce their own power!
  • Arcata - Eel River in route to Arcata




  • Ft. Bragg - Piazzi Pizza Bar - Great tap selection. Farmhouse Ale Sour
  • Coos Bay, OR - We had a great bottled Rodenbach Red Sour at a German restaurant
  • Portland, OR - McMenamins - a disney land style franchise brewery. We're pretty sure they short cut their process and faked it with flavoring.
  • Tacoma, WA - Harmon Brewing was OK. Though the waiter who forgot us completely then apologized and said, "these are on me," charged us anyway. Snarl.
  • Port Townsend, WA - The Porterhouse - Loved the brewery on the beach. Loved the Horcheta, and a porter that was from Dechutes



  • Cascade Locks, OR - Thunder Island Brewery, all around GOOD stout (on nitrous) was the fave.
  • Bend, OR - Dechutes Brewery - all good! Loved a Obsidian stout, Black butte porter, stoic quad
  • Bend, OR - Crux, OR - IBU's not accurate, high! Liked the Weisenbock but not impressed overall.



20150610

Geeky Quirks & Coffee Science in Port Townsend Dock

Coffee and beer have taken a central position in our summer road trip. It is no coincidence that both are also trending. We admit, some trends are fun, like trail running!

Now being partnered to a geek comes with a midfield of peculiarities. If a conversation is taking place too near to the one I'm having with Mikey it is me that he drops. Later he'll recite from the conversation he's not supposed to be in word-for-word. Then there's the plethora of language issues. Just the other day at the coffee counter at Velocity in Port Townsend, the woman behind the counter asked us, "do you want a latte?" Mikey looked at his shoes. "The question was wrong," he told me later. I did not want a late, I wanted a chemex for two. He had been staring at the variety of scientific looking glass accouterments that adorned the counter with mesmerized fascination. A large flask like glass piece that looked hand-blown sat upon a digital scale. The guy standing over it was who Mikey was waiting for. The two went on to talk out the details of the two cups of coffee we were soon to ingest. The counter guy (also the owner) explained that he was doing a multi-pour, waiting for the coffee to bloom after each pour (I didn't know coffee bloomed - and I'm still not sure it does), before pouring again. The scale measured the weight of each pour, you know, to be precise. Mikey was in heaven. So was the owner. The pair held up the line for the next 20 minutes, the length of time it took to make the coffee wonder we drank, and all for $2.50 a cup. A woman standing by the scene said, "I'll have whatever he's having. I want that experience." And that's what it was, an experience.

We had the time and enjoyed our coffee which was served with a shot glass of lightly carbonated mineral water, a kind of palette cleanser. Add one sturdy dock overlooking the bay and a morning sun rise and you've got a near perfect morning.

Port Townsend, WA Ban on Big Box = Big Effect on Quality of Life


Mikey and I have slowed our 6 months of summer meandering with a stop at his parent's home near Seattle where we hunkered down for three weeks. We got out of the Honda for a bit and into a cushy bed. Mikey complained and wanted to sleep in the driveway in the parked car.

We did a few short jaunts to nearby places while here running frequently at Point Defiance, Steilacoom Park, and a trail called Sequalitchew Creek. Our longer stints have been Leavenworth, the Bavarian village that features alpine lakes and recently the waterfront historic town of Port Townsend, WA.

I wondered why Port Townsend felt different than other places. Sure the historic victorian buildings were unusual, and the place is on a peninsula surrounded by the bay and this came with a soundtrack of gulls squawking. The street traffic was mellow (not four lane but two), and the place bustled with foot traffic. Little trail markers popped up all over the place indicating a hike or a cut through where one could shortcut their way across a part of town. I remembered growing up in Long Island in the 70s and how at that time we still had these kinds of natural cut throughs, grass patches, and nooks to play in. Port Townsend also featured parks a plenty and they were all in use. The waterfront was kept public and made accessible to all. After a day I realized what it was that I was feeling there. Pt Townsend had banned big box stores and corporate chains. A simple sweet way of life that I last felt in the 1970s resulted. My whole nervous system relaxed. And so did everyone else's. Not only that, but the economy seemed to be bustling with mom n pop shops, buildings for theater and entertainment, a real drive in movie theater, odd shops and unusual restaurants. There were more than a few places to learn things like a woodworking center located on an old Fort that's become a community center. Sharing resources was a theme commonly expressed here.

We searched out a place to stealth camp in the Honda in town so that we could hit yard sales in the morning and found a perfect spot at the historic Bell Tower that sits perched above town with a waterfront view. The tower sits just 100 yards off of a not so busy road, has space for a couple of cars and is protected on all sides by a shrub border. Really? Could we be so lucky? Yes! Two nights and not only did no one bother us, but occasionally we bumped into folks who lived near by and who were out for a walk. They were friendly and welcoming. A recent transplant from Alaska remarked when we rolled out of our vehicle in the am wearing pjs, "I like your ride."

To top it off the local Pourhouse serves a plethora of beers on tap at a sandy outdoor beach setting with live music every night. It was packed. I could feel summer fun starting up. Yay Port Townsend.

20150520

The Good Life Lab's Blog Babies - Anikos Herbal Education

Since my book, The Good Life Lab was published in June 2013, I've received sweet letters of praise that I have savored as they fill my heart to the very top.

More than a few who wrote to me said the book influenced them to make a decision different than the one they were about to make before reading the book. One reader said, "I was afraid to read your book." She knew it contained a something that may sway her. It did. Usually the through process people describe to me is something like, "I was going to move to the city and start building a career but decided to take a six month road trip with my husband first and think things through." Then comes a story about remembering that they had a dream that would not take flight if they took the career path before them. Then the new decision. "So I decided to by our family farm and raise my kids there." Or in Aniko's case, she went to herbalism school. When she wrote to tell me about her life changing decisions I replied suggesting she start a blog, advice I give to everyone starting a journey. Journey's are important, interesting, and ought to be shared. Here's the one she started. Yay Aniko!


Swap-O-Rama-Rama @ The Maker Fare - Ten Years of Good Fun & Creative Reuse


This year marks the tenth that Swap-O-Rama-Rama was produced at the Maker Faire (in San Mateo, CA). From the start this has been a charmed pairing. I remember the very first year in which I, along with the MF staff, celebrated as Swap-O-Rama-Rama was immediately embraced by Maker Faire attendees. Local talent showed up in droves to teach attendees to sew, stitch, deconstruct, and hack textiles. Thousands of pounds of textiles were repurposed and saved from landfill. Silk screeners threw down designs that were so out-of -the-box that lines to obtain them wrapped around the 6,000 sq ft room that the swap was in. Today the event features a speaking lounge for talks of all things fashion and textile. The fashion show was packed with creative people young an old ogling over the new creative opportunity made available at the faire, textiles!!


Today I take a back seat to the Swap-O-Rama-Rama's production. The San Mateo faire swap is produced by Erin Scholl who also runs a regular running Swap-O-Rama-Rama in the bay area. Thanks to Erin and the fantastic and loyal staff that she's put together for yet another fantastic event. Here are some photos from the event that took place last week.

20150519

Exactly How Long You Can Be Anywhere

Since leaving New Mexico, a state that could easily be called the free spirit of the west, I have noticed that free space is hard to find. Today I encountered a sign at Whole Foods that indicated exactly how long I was expected to spend in Whole Foods according to Whole Foods. The length of time is not more than 90 minutes at which time the corporation will have my vehicle towed. Now this is in spite of the fact that the Whole Foods I visited contained a brewery, pizza restaurant, sushi bar, and a fireplace with seating around it. Have fun, but not more than 90 minutes of it.

This was in keeping with signs we've read all along our route from Colorado to Cali. A sign posted in a public park in the county of Del Norte, CA read, "no free picnicking." Really. Why? Ubiquitous were signs stating, "No Overnight Parking."

Growing up I recall that my friends and I regularly parked around the burbs. Favorite spots included behind the Morton Village Shopping Center, the woods behind the USPS building, in sumps, cemeteries, and abandoned lots where homes had not yet been built. Kids love these kinds of nooks. But even then, one did not have to hide, we liked to hide. We also hung out wherever we wanted and regularly parked in any ol' lot, by a store or business, or an empty space be it an official park or not. Back then (oh my do I sound old!) cops took you home to your mother if you were found in a precarious position, not to jail. Humm.. do you think this may have to do with the fact that jails were not privately funded profit centers in the late 70s and 80s?

Before leaving T or C, a place where free space is still abundant, a friend from Wyoming told us that his state proudly hosted city parks with bathrooms and running water . They welcome guests (even those who sleep in cars and tents) for three days. Now that's more like it.

Although it has not been written, I think that we can say that it is illegal to live an indigenous life. No one is free to exist in space as space is no longer free. We are pointed to private property as the only space we have a right to exist in. If your lucky enough to own some, life is a little easier. If you add to this lonely picture that today more than half of the states in America have made feeding homeless people illegal, one has to wonder where the heart of our nation has gone.